A commuter couplet route proposed in the Spokane Valley is intended to take pressure off busy portions of Sprague Avenue and Interstate 90, county engineers told a group of business leaders Wednesday.
Ten-year projections show Sprague and I-90 can each expect about a 40 percent increase in traffic volume in the western Valley. The Valley Couplet, which proposes two one-way roads between Thierman and University roads, will move traffic more smoothly in those areas, engineers said.
“What we’re doing out here is going to be a major impact in our area,” Ross Kelley, county engineer, told Valley Chamber of Commerce members.
Plans show the 2.5-mile couplet running as far east as University. The project would cost about $16 million.
Eventually, engineers hope the couplet will run all the way to Liberty Lake.
A public meeting and hearing on the couplet plan will be held Wednesday at the Valley’s Red Lion Inn. Three or four more public meetings will be held before construction would start, said Chad Hudson, Public Works Department spokesman.
Engineers were careful to consider needs of business owners, environmental groups and Valley Fire District officials when sketching the couplet plan, also referred to as Alternative 6, Kelley said.
Five lanes of westbound traffic will follow Sprague, keeping cars flowing in front of businesses along the corridor and away from the Dishman Hills Natural Area. Eastbound traffic will travel a new four-lane road to be built along First and Second avenues and the Old Milwaukee railroad right of way.
Unlike the South Valley Arterial, which proposed a two-way, limited-access route along Fourth Avenue, the couplet’s two legs will be connected by 12 existing north-south roads. The couplet’s design should keep traffic moving smoothly while allowing motorists to access businesses along Sprague.
“It’s designed to be a full-access facility,” Haines said.
Valley Creamery owner Dick Behm said at the meeting he is concerned the couplet will not handle as much traffic as previous proposals because it offers fewer lanes.
While it’s true the couplet will have nine lanes instead of the 12 proposed for previous alternatives, the couplet will be more efficient, Kelley said. Three-way intersections will make it easier to properly sequence the traffic lights.
“On most urban arterials it’s the intersections that cause the backups, it’s not the (number of) lanes,” Kelley said. “The lanes can carry the traffic.”
Martin Burnette, a consultant who represents the Spokane Valley Business Association, also questioned the wisdom of narrowing Sprague to five lanes to provide a green space along the road. Future needs will force engineers to widen the stretch later, Burnette predicted.
If the road was being built, “we wouldn’t have wanted it that wide, but the fact is, it is,” he said.
, DataTimes MEMO: Couplet comments Spokane County engineers will host a public meeting and hearing Wednesday at the Red Lion Inn, 1100 N. Sullivan. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. in the Ponderosa Room. The hearing follows at 7 p.m.